Architecture
April 19, 2021

Starchitect Designed Vancouver House Floods Itself: Should Radical Design Be Rethought?

Everywhere around the world the tall buildings are called marvels of engineering, providing custom work and employment for the Hollywood deck of designer darlings called “Starchitects”. Of course those same buildings overshadow parks and other buildings and usurp tons of resources. They also are being associated with a whole bunch of problems because they are so big, different, and house so many units.

It was Kenneth Chan in the Daily Hive that revealed the news:  starchitect Bjarke Ingels’ designed Vancouver House had a “severe failure of the building’s water systems, causing a deluge of water to pour out of pipes, into the condominiums, and out of the elevators.”

And it’s bad. There’s a series of videos documenting the water dumping from the 30th  floor area impacting nine floors below that, blowing out the elevators which are not not operational, meaning everyone is schlepping up the stairs.  A side note: replacing elevator cable subjected to water can cost $60,000 per cable. The units impacted are not livable: the degree of water infiltration elsewhere in the structure has not yet been assessed.

There are images of residents sloshing in water over their toes, and of course with no elevators they have to rely on stairs to get out of the building. Sadly there was water gushing down the emergency exit stairway as well.

And there’s more.

This seems to be the tipping point event that has made residents go public, with Mr. Chan receiving a photographic tome of building deficiencies, cracks, peeling exterior surfaces, and discoloured walls. As Mr. Chan carefully puts it, the graphic litany produced by a frustrated strata owner “highlighted alleged inconsistencies with the final product compared to the marketing materials, alleged building design and system deficiencies, and alleged damage from contractors moving equipment and materials in and out of the building for construction during the occupancy period.”

This water failure will cost millions of dollars to remediate, and will impact owner insurance rates for the 480 units, 105 which are market rental.

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The Government of Canada has openings for their Technical Committees on Accessibility.

Help create standards for the built environment! You have until Thursday April 23, 2021 to apply.

Role
The role of the technical committee is to:

Identify barriers to accessibility in the built environment
Take into account emerging trends in the area of accessibility of the built environment
Develop a model standard for the built environment – accessibility that will reflect language consistent with the national model building code. This standard will apply best practices in accessibility of the built environment.
Areas of focus
There are common areas where persons with disabilities may face barriers related to the built environment. These include, but are not limited to:

building entrances;
paths of travel;
access to storeys;
parking and loading zones;
controls;
power door operators;
assistive listening devices;
signage;
washrooms and universal washrooms (including showers).

Experts with disabilities are key to the successful development of accessibility standards. Experts with disabilities, as well as other experts, would fit into one of the stakeholder categories noted below.

Eight different  technical committee will have 12 to 18 members each. Please click here to find more information about this opportunity.

 

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Michael Kluckner riffs off the post from Michael Gordon below to recount the story of the building that marked the end of the highrise era in Kitsilano*.

2280 Cornwall

It was the end of ’71 when developer Ben Wosk started work on the apartment building at 2280 Cornwall, following the path set by the St. Roch at 2323 and Century House at 2370 West 2nd in 1966 (left), and Las Salinas at 2310 West 2nd and Seaside Plaza at 2324 West 1st in 1968. The earlier “highrises” are on big pieces of property, like the West End ones of the ’60s, with a lot of open space and low FSR, as were Carriage House and similar buildings erected at that time in South Granville and Kerrisdale. Very different from everything today.

People including some NPA aldermen naively believed that the height limit was three storeys at the beach, although it was actually 120 feet or 12 storeys. Bruce Yorke of the Vancouver Tenants Council led the protests – something people have a problem understanding today, that highrise apartments were equated with higher rents than the lowrise ones, and with displacement and gentrification.

(The blowback was so immediate that Tom Campbell, the NPA mayor at the time, intervened with Wosk to get a stop on the highrise proposal.)  Wosk agreed to build only three storeys “on condition the area is rezoned so that no other highrises can be built,” according to the Sun, February 16, 1972.

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This event  will feature remarks from The Honourable Dr. Vivienne Poy and will be moderated by CBC’s Gloria Macarenko.

Catherine Clement needs no introduction, she is the  author and curator of Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow, a photo exhibition showcased at the Chinese Cultural Centre in May 2019 in “before times”. She has now published a book on Yucho Chow, and how his photographs captured a generation characterized by resilience and hope.

Community curator Catherine Clement will explore how stories of migration have been rediscovered and brought back to life through objects found, yet forgotten, in our homes. Through her decade-long, ground-breaking work collecting the hidden photographs of Vancouver Chinatown’s first and most prolific photographer, Yucho Chow – to her current project locating surviving C.I. documents used to monitor, control and intimidate early Chinese in Canada – Catherine will show how each piece helps reveal a rich story.

The Pacific Canada Museum of Migration is hosting this event.

Date: Saturday May 1st 2021

Time:  5:15 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.  Pacific Time.

You can register here. This event will fill quickly.

Here is a short video from another Pacific Canada Museum of Migration event in the Before Times, when people shared the stories of their ancestral migrations through the food traditions  their ancestors brought to Canada.

 

 

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One confident post-pandemic prediction: the curbside patio – or streeterie – is here to stay.  Like these on Yew Street yesterday:

Irony alert: some businesses would have opposed the loss of the required curb parking tooth and nail if not for the pandemic.  Instead, this summer we should see some creativity and upscaling of streeterie design, so important have they become in the economics of eating.  (Likewise, more debate at City Hall on how much should eventually be charged for this valuable public space to offset the parking revenue loss.)

As for the inside of restaurants, lots of lessons have been learned that will be incorporated into permanent design changes.  But there’s still a debate as to whether deliberate crowding will be avoided or desired.  From Fortune:

Warren Weixler, cofounder of creative design firm Swatchroom, based in Washington, D.C., agrees. “I think the idea of packing a bar shoulder-to-shoulder and trying to sling as many drinks as possible is a thing of the past.” …

…. some say, not so fast. Knudsen of Concrete Hospitality … predicts (temporary partitions) will be gone by the end of this year. His team is even continuing to add communal tables into their restaurant designs.

“We’re social creatures,” he says. “The pandemic has proven that we need that interaction. And you can’t replace that.” If some packed bars and restaurants in places that have lifted all COVID restrictions are any indication, Knudsen may be right.

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In case there was any doubt, this is going to be a hard-fought (and long) civic election.  At least one set of gloves has come off.

Ken Sim (undoubtedly the mayoral candidate for the ABC party) has taken aim at John Coupar (mayoral candidate for the NPA) if not head on, at least to the source of his identity.

Here’s the latest from Sim:

Today I am announcing my first policy commitment:

If I am elected Mayor of Vancouver, I commit to abolishing the elected Park Board and rolling it back under the authority of City Council, where it belongs.

If I am successful in securing a nomination from an electors organization, I will also be looking to recruit candidates to run for Park Board alongside me, who will be committed to being the last elected Park Board Commissioners.

It’s a bold move.  There has always been a belief by many that, on one hand, the Park Board is an anachronism – redundant and (to City Hall) annoying.  On the other, many believe it reflects a profound priority of this city and its culture: a deeply rooted love of nature and the importance of parks, community centres and the social supports they offer.

Historically the existence of a separate political body for parks has meant we were green before it was capitalized.  No Council, regardless of its ideological positions, can easily erode that commitment – so long, it’s argued, as an elected Park Board is there.

Pragmatically, it just hasn’t been worth the constitutional struggle to abolish it, likely requiring an amendment to the Vancouver Charter – hence provincial approval.

But it is no coincidence that Sim’s first major policy statement (effectively responding to the criticism that he hasn’t any) takes dead aim at the primary identity of John Coupar, long-time Park Commissioner, a board chair, proudest of his support for the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park, and even his opposition to bikeways in parks.

By the time you read this, Coupar will likely be responding.  And it won’t be as mild as the persona that Coupar cultivates.

 

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Michael Geller just recommended a blog by Brandon Donnelly – “Rated by the Guardian Cities UK as one of the best city blogs in the world, it generally covers everything from architecture and planning to real estate and technology.”

I’m surprised I hadn’t seen more references to him before (a Canadian blogger on cities!).  “Brandon Graham Donnelly is a city builder and blogger based in Toronto … studied architecture and fine art history at the University of Toronto … a Managing Director at Slate Asset Management and founder of the Globizen Group. … loves snowboarding, photography, electronic music, and local Ontario wines.”

First post I saw:

Just how valuable is public transit?

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